Paperback Writer

Cuttings” comes in a paperback and is a mystery series, but Anne Underwood Grant does more with her amateur sleuth Sidney Teague than most authors do with their hardcover heroes.

In no way would one want to step into Teague’s shoes. Sidney is a single mother of two who runs her public relations agency with the help of two staffers and a revolving door of salespeople. And instead of a house by the Atlantic or some other attractive location, Teague works out of Charlotte, N.C. Those who know the area will recognize the locations, the people and Grant’s cutting knowledge of the city’s foibles, from its inability to distinguish itself nationally to its overweening pride in being a “big city.” The only bow to convention — her boyfriend is a homicide detective — is undercut by her uncertainty that they have a future together.

So Teague lives a life that’s closer to the everyday hurly-burly that her readers will find familiar. Her time is not her own, even when there’s a murder to be solved. During a long weekend servicing a convention of florists, their wholesalers and suppliers, she has to cope with her demanding client, her employees and her children. On top of that, she is shaken when a floral designer she had known for decades suddenly drops dead at a seminar he was conducting. Then a convention executive is found stabbed, and Teague finds herself targeted as well. She soldiers on, but she’s clearly shaken.

Her subsequent discoveries carries with them an air of tragedy far graver and more satisfying than one would expect to find in a paperback. If Anne Underwood Grant doesn’t take care, she may find herself compared with Patricia Cornwell and James Lee Burke. And who would want that?